Navy Promotes Michelle Howard, Making Her Its First Female Four-Star Admiral

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For the first time in its 236-year history, the Navy has its first female four-star admiral! Michelle Howard, formerly vice admiral, has just been promoted. She will also be the Navy’s new vice chief of naval operations.

On Tuesday morning, Howard paid tribute to the nation’s service members during her promotional ceremony, which was held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. She briefly addressed her audience, remarking that the “willingness to step up and contribute to a noble cause in your life is a sign of true selflessness.” She also said:

“Our sailors and Marines are this legacy. They are volunteers. And with every mission, they demonstrate our core values, values our founders would have understood — courage, honor, commitment.”  [source]

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Navy Secretary Ray Mabus referred to Howard’s promotion as a “representation of how far we have come, and how far she has helped bring us.”

“She is also a great example of how much we as a nation and a Navy lose if we put artificial barriers in. If we don’t judge people based on their ability, based on their capability. I hope I have always been passionate about that, but I know the intensity has increased since I am the father of three daughters, and I refuse to believe that there are any ceilings for them, glass or otherwise. That they can get to wherever their abilities can take them. And with that, they and countless others in the Navy now have a wonderful role model in Michelle Howard.” [source]

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This isn’t the first time Howard has made history. Graduating from the  U.S. Naval Academy in 1982, she was the first African American woman to command a ship.

She is pleased that there are now significantly more opportunities available to women in the military than when she first joined.

“Now I think about it all these years later, the combat exclusion law was repealed and women can serve on all classes of ships, all types of aircraft. And then the last couple of years, opening up the submarines to women — it’s significant.”  [source]

Because of women like Howard, women now encounter less obstacles and friction from their colleagues. Howard admits that it wasn’t easy.

“There were individuals who didn’t want me there or wanted to undermine what I was trying to do.”  [source]

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Unfortunately, that skepticism didn’t end in the 80s and 90s. In 2013, it was discovered that one of Howard’s peers said that Howard’s success and promotion to vice admiral was accelerated due to her race and gender, that she “may not have had to cross as many hurdles in the same fashion to get where she was at.”

In Howard’s defense, retired Rear Adm. Sonny Masso shot down the characterization in an interview with the Navy Times in January. He said:

“Do I think she’s a token female, a token African-American, or anything like that? I would say absolutely and emphatically not. [With] her performance and critical jobs across the spectrum … she has brought an extraordinary amount of experience that is equal to any of her peers.” [source]

Here’s a wonderful video of Howard’s promotion: